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Sri Lankan media's role in reporting HIV/AIDS issues

Published: Thursday 15 December 2005

THE draft national AIDS policy presented by the Sri Lankan government has discussed the critical question of the media's influence and relation to the rights of HIV/AIDS patients. It has warned those violating ethics and responsible reporting in relation to HIV/AIDS would be "liable to pay damages to those affected by it". A copy of the policy was recently circulated by the health ministry to all stakeholders for comments.

The media's role in the HIV/AIDS debate has touched some sore points in the past with some media reports containing detailed personal information of patients. The policy realised that media was an important means of accessing information on HIV/AIDS. The policy stated that since the media could influence public attitudes towards HIV/AIDS and those affected by it, information with responsibility should be the norm. It states: "The right of the public to information related to HIV/AIDS will not infringe on the rights of the HIV positive individuals who wish to keep their status confidential."

The policy also discussed a range of other issues. It lay emphasis on the need for private sector, nonprofit organisations and the government coming together to fight HIV/AIDS. It also looked at the education process, the role of the national committee, human rights, surveillance, reporting of HIV cases, HIV testing, access to health services, counselling, gender issues, men and children, commercial sex, contraception, drug use and treatment.

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